Reading famed author Alice Walker’s recent call on R&B singer Alicia Keys to boycott Israel sent waves of grief spiraling through my veins. I have known for a long time that Walker is no friend of Israel and has issues that I can only call anti-Semitism, but to actually read the words of this letter… it is simply more of the same old Jew-hatred against Jewish self-determination masked in “progressive” rhetoric that we see all too often these days. Walker claims she is “not against individuals (Israelis),” but she wants to fight an “apartheid state.”
She counsels Ms. Keys against “destroying her soul” by performing in Israel. She states that the situation in Israel is “a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.”
Although she would like to conveniently separate Israelis from Israel and Jews from Israel, the fact is that we Jews like it or not, are connected to Israel. It is the one and only Jewish state. For her to go to such lengths as to proclaim an artist who performs in Israel will lose her SOUL is not only outrageous, it is also anti-Semitic.
Underlying this level of hatred towards Israel is a profound disruption in Alice Walker’s sense of self.
In one paradigm articulated by Heinz Kohut, a psychoanalyst who developed a particular theory of self-esteem, problems stem from different developmental disruptions. One disruption in particular, a “twinship transference” can perhaps account for Alice Walker’s myopic and destructive focus on Israel.
Somewhere along the line, from feeling allied with her Jewish husband and Jews in the Civil Rights/Black Liberation Movement, the twinship broke. Zionism, the Jewish liberation movement became “racism.” Her hatred of Jewish self-determination is all over her letter.
Did she at one time in the mid-sixties feel united with Jews fighting alongside African Americans for American Civil Rights? Did that twinship get disrupted when differences in class and standing in society be it skin color or money twist her mind?
It makes it impossible to feel good about one-self unless the “offending object,” in psychoanalytic parlance, (in this case Israel), is isolated, cast off or destroyed.
Envy is a terrifyingly destructive force—the thinking goes like this:
“Your existence makes me feel so unbearably bad about myself. I feel diminished by your success. It’s unbearable. One of us has to go– there is no room for both of us. Your survival undermines mine.”
This is the nature of envy – unlike jealousy, it has no redeemable qualities, it does not motivate the person left out to do better, to find a way in or to improve without having to destroy the other.
The stakes are higher when dealing with envy, darker and destructive. Envy must destroy one or the other to feel better. There is no room in Alice Walker’s world for both herself and Israel as a Jewish country.
Alice Walker is not ignorant. She must be aware that Israel settled more than 800,000 Jews forced to flee their native countries from nine Arab countries, Turkey and Iran. Jewish communities predating Islam in most of the Middle East and North Africa were expelled or forced to flee their ancient communities in the 1950’s. Most of those countries, including my parents native lands of Egypt and Iraq have destroyed their ancient Jewish communities and are “Jew-Free” today. She must know that Israel is a Jewish Homeland filled with non-white Jews who were expelled by almost every single Arab nation penniless from their ancient communities. Its an inconvenient truth in her narrative.
Un-examined envy spills out in various forms. Walker’s vitriol says more about her hatred of Israel than her caring about the “soul” of Alicia Keys.
She claims she worries about the soul of her “young sister” Alicia Keys being damaged by performing in “evil” Israel.
I will not argue with Alice Walker or attempt to convince her to change her narrative. It’s deeply ingrained by now. She has had years of honing it. Unfortunately it had to land this time on a beautiful young performer who is no “sister” to Walker’s hatred.
And in this case, Walker has failed to inject her envy into Alicia Keys, who has chosen much needed love, sharing her music and her light with people in Israel.